For audiences, San Francisco’s free Comedy Day promises 5½ hours of laughs. For performers, it’s a much-anticipated get-together.
“We’re on the road a lot, so it’s the only chance we have for an office party as comedians. You get to see people you haven’t seen for a while, you laugh, and you remember good times,” says Diane Amos, the 2014 Comedy Legend Award recipient.
Some of this year’s water-cooler reminiscences will no doubt involve Robin Williams, a longtime friend of Comedy Day, a nonprofit event turning 34 this year. Although festivities on Sunday in Golden Gate Park will include a Williams tribute, tears won’t eclipse the laughter if Amos has anything to do with it.
“I’m sure there’ll be a certain amount of sadness because we lost a giant, and we’re all reeling from that,” she says. “I’ve been performing
with him since I was 19. But among us comics, we know that he would absolutely want the day to be fabulous. He would expect us to step up our game.”
Founded in 1981 by the late Jose Simon, Comedy Day this year features 40 local and national notables including Margaret Cho, Will and Debi Durst, W. Kamau Bell, Brian Copeland, Dana Gould and Marga Gomez. Amos — aka the Pine Sol Lady from TV and print ads — will do something musical and spontaneous in Williams’ memory.
“I’m known for my improvisational skills. For that reason, and in honor of Robin, because of the improv history I had with him and the inspiration he was to me, I just want to make sure I improvise something in a blues song,” she says.
Amos parlayed her early improv success into a stand-up career, as well as roles in films such as “Copycat,” “Sweet November” and “Blue
Jasmine.” These days, she performs as part of The Bad Aunties alongside comics Debi Durst and Judy Nihei.
More than 25 years after Amos did her first stand-up routine about being a black female comedian in what she calls “a predominately white male business,” the number of female comics and comedians of color continues to increase, as Sunday’s Comedy Day lineup demonstrates.
“I’m the longest-running black spokeswoman for anything,” she says. “That’s something to be proud of.
But I am most proud of being in this business successfully for as many years as I have and living my dream.”
Still, honoring Williams is Amos’ primary focus this year.
“It’s definitely the Comedy Day where people should bring their A-game,” she says. “He would have wanted that.”
Another way to support the show — which will remain free, according to organizers, who have improved the sound, facilities and experience through the years — is to donate via a Kickstarter campaign at http://bit.ly/comedykick.
IF YOU GO
Where: Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F.
When: Noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday